Baxter scores a date at the SCG
FOR THE second time in more than half a century Clarence Valley cricket umpire Bruce Baxter is going to get a close-up look at the hallowed turf of the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Baxter has just been appointed to umpire the Thunder Conference final of the Plan B Regional T20 Bash at the ground on December 11.
"The only time I ever got out into the middle at the SCG was when dad took me to see a test match in about 1963 or 64," Baxter said. "In those days the crowd was allowed on to the ground to have a look at the pitch after the day's play.
"There wasn't so much security then and the people knew to leave the pitch surface alone."
On December 11 Baxter will be in the middle for a lot longer, something that has him excited.
"It's the venue," he said. "I've umpired Country Championship which is probably a higher standard of cricket, but the chance to umpire on the SCG is rather special."
The appointment is an exciting development for Baxter, who began umpiring in earnest eight seasons ago, after pulling up stumps on his playing career at the age of 58.
"I've had my state badge for 23 years, paid my dues every year, but never really wanted to use it until I stopped playing," he said.
Initially content to umpire local club games, a chance to officiate at a Coffs Harbour junior representative carnival opened the door to higher echelons of the game.
"I was lucky enough to get an invitation to help out," he said "After it was over they asked me if I was available next year."
Baxter's rise through the umpiring ranks has been swift and he now sits on the country supplementary panel of six umpires, just below the top eight officials on the main panel.
"I've been on that panel for the past three or four years," he said. "At every carnival you go to, the scrutineers are out and about evaluating you.
"In fact one of them asked me one where I had been hiding all these years.
"I told him I had been playing the game right up to a few years ago."
Baxter said cricket demanded excellence from both players and officials, but the requirements were different.
"When you're playing there's the personal milestones and adrenaline rush," he said.
"When you're umpiring you want to get through the day and not make mistakes."
He said umpiring T20 cricket throws up plenty of challenges, including physical danger.
"During a recent game involving Northern Rock, one of their batsman was really hitting them," Baxter said.
"I decided to stand back an extra two metres in case he nailed one straight back at me.
"At least I would have another fraction of a second to get out of the way."